The Comments Section is more than a showcase of local comedy, storytelling, and musical talent. Nicole Phoenix is building an uproarious platform for Black women to gather, grow, and share.
Spend five minutes at a comedy open mic and you will gain a new understanding of the phrase “alone together.” It’s a practice space for creative loners. Nicole Phoenix, creator and host of The Comments Section, describes her first steps into standup comedy as a slow build of vigor.
“I would go to these mics and sit in the corner by myself nursing a beer I couldn't afford, trying to figure out if this was the day that I was going to actually sign up and tell my first joke,” she remembers. “That experience was really isolating. I was the only one there who looked like me. It was like being the new kid in school all over again. The feeling of being othered was hard to ignore.”
Building a community
Phoenix refined her jokes and act over time as she built a network. “The more I developed, I began to meet other Black women and women of color who were really funny. I wanted to develop a community. It only seemed to be the next natural step to create a show that celebrated and highlighted what Black women can do with comedy.”
In May 2018 Phoenix debuted the first edition of The Comments Section showcase. “Finding a home has been a challenge from the onset,” Phoenix says. “I was unemployed and super broke when the show first started, and the amazing owners of the Sable Collective opened up their space for me and my guests.” The energy of a store dedicated to clothing, jewelry, art, and books intentionally selected for the beauty and wellness of Black women set the tone for Phoenix’s year of producing. The kickoff event was a hysterical, intimate, and unique launch to a year of monthly shows.
“When I first started, I just started booking all of the funny women that I knew on the Philly comedy scene. I had no idea that the show would still be going on a year later, so I've started booking acts from outside of the Philly area,” Phoenix says. Since then, there have been pop-up laughs and jams as well as shows with a seasonal twist. The October 2018 show, dubbed The Ex-Files: Halloween Edition, was a hysterical display of Phoenix digging up old skeletons and spilling tea on “ex-BOOs” with her lineup. That playful energy saturates every rendition of The Comments Section to make it a show like no other.
Laughing and crying
Phoenix knows that her show is different. She books, promotes, and performs with intention, describing her spike of anxiety as each show approaches but also how the nerves melt away once the audience gathers. Even if the show venue changes, the following continues to grow.
Phoenix remembers one of her favorite moments so far: hosting comedian, storyteller, and author Cecily Alexandria for her first Mother’s Day show. “When we spoke, all I asked was for her to prepare a story about mothers or motherhood,” she says, and then she was “blown away” by Alexandria’s story about her mother saving her life.
“I wasn’t prepared to both laugh and cry in the span of 15 minutes,” Phoenix goes on. “I was so humbled that she had chosen to share such an important story with us. That moment let me know that I had created a real platform.”
You can catch The Comments Section: One-Year Anniversary Show! at Fairmount’s Green Soul on Sunday, May 12, 2019, at 8:30pm. Follow The Comments Section on Facebook and Instagram for show recaps, updates on alumni, and upcoming events.
What, When, Where
The Comments Section: One-Year Anniversary Show! is coming up on Sunday, May 12, 2019, at 8:30pm at Green Soul, 1410 Mount Vernon Street, Philadelphia. Tickets are available online.
To inquire about tickets for ADA-compliant seating, call Green Soul at (215) 660-9600.